Andre Ward’s fists did the talking Saturday night as he successfully retained his WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine super middleweight championships by frustrating and dominating Chad Dawson – knocking him down three times en route to a 10th round technical knockout.
Fighting in front of his hometown fans in Oakland, Ward (26-0, 14 KO) wobbled Dawson with a left hook and dropped him to a knee with a flurry of punches. Dawson got back up, then told referee Steve Smoger he was finished, prompting Smoger to stop the bout at the 2:45 mark.
Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, told SFBay his fighter gave a great performance, giving him a 9 ½ on a scale from 1-10:
“The plan that we laid out – and the strategy that we laid out – he followed it to a ‘T.’”
Prior to the stoppage, Ward had success jabbing to Dawson’s body, while Dawson (31-2, 17 KO), caught Ward with short right hooks and managed to back Ward up against the ropes at times.
When asked about why he took such a big risk by fighting Dawson, Ward told SecondsOut in a post-fight interview that he wanted to challenge himself against a fellow elite fighter:
“Even though I’ve been off ten months, I still train. I’m always thinking about boxing. So I felt that I would be fine … But then again, Chad called me out. So we just answered the call.”
From the third round on, the 28-year-old Ward took complete control of the bout.
Ward knocked Dawson down twice – once in the third and again at the start of the fourth – with left hooks. Following the second knockdown, Ward stepped up his attack and hurt Dawson with left hooks and right hands. He also caught Dawson with an uppercut while Dawson was against the ropes.
Ward’s performance most likely dispelled the notion that he could not produce a spectacular knockout – let alone, hurt a naturally stronger fighter like Dawson.
Hunter told SFBay that notion is the biggest misconception about his fighter:
“It’s just something that the fans didn’t realize he had. His hook has always been on par with the best left hookers – and I always knew that. It was just when we decided to turn the curb and seek the knockouts that now they all of a sudden realize that he can hurt you.”
Despite having a 5 ½ inch reach advantage, the 30-year-old Dawson, 168, New Haven, Conn., could not establish his right jab.
Meanwhile, Ward, who also weighed 168 lbs., frustrated Dawson with his left jab throughout the middle rounds. He also scraped Dawson with sharp uppercuts as they fought on the inside during the eighth round.
Hunter believes Dawson and his camp underestimated Ward’s physical strength and never expected him to hurt Dawson as badly as he did – as evident by the frustration on Dawson’s face:
“When he realized that it was for real, it was too late and it discouraged him. So, every time he tried something, he had to pay for it.”
Dawson’s trainer, “Iceman” John Scully, constantly urged Dawson to let his hands go and step up his attack.
In fact, before Dawson came out for the start of the 10th round, Scully explicitly told Dawson:
“It’s time to win!”
But the pep talk the opposite effect.
According to Compubox, Ward landed 155 of 418 punches total, compared to only 29 of 187 for Dawson. In fact, Ward landed over 100 power punches through nine rounds.
Dawson, whose WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight titles were not at stake, competed at super middleweight for the first time since February 2006, when he defeated Jason Naugler by unanimous decision. He and Scully were unavailable for comment after the fight.
Ward, recognized by Ring Magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America as the 2011 fighter of the year, improved to 6-0 in world title fights. Ward splashed onto the boxing scene when he won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
When asked about his fighter’s future, Hunter said that while Ward is comfortable fighting at super middleweight, campaigning at light heavyweight is inevitable.
Hunter also likes the possibility of Ward fighting middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.:
“I just don’t see how that’s a fight that you can avoid [between Andre and Chavez Jr.] It’s a fight that should be made.”
While Ward is recognized by Ring Magazine as the fifth best pound-for-pound fighter, he made his intentions clear – he will continue to train and fight hard and win impressively in order to ascend to the top of the P4P rankings:
“Like Virgil said, we respect our champions. Floyd (Mayweather)’s been doing this a lot longer than me. He’s been in a lot of megafights and I won’t dare say that I’m better than Floyd Mayweather. I got to keep working.”